Last month I let you know that next year I’m heading to India with Rush Expeditions for a 10-day boutique tour. The good news is, you have the opportunity to come with me.
We will be spending our time in Northern India which, because of the incredible scenery, architecture and historical significance of the region, is known as the Golden Triangle of India.
After touring fabulous sites like the Taj Mahal, we’ll be heading to the quiet rural surroundings of Nawalgarh. Nawalgarh was founded in 1737 and is famous for having the largest number of traditional traders’ houses in the region. These homes are mansions and have an enclosed courtyard so they are called havelis meaning ‘enclosed space’. The traders who owned these mansions would display their wealth and success by adorning the facades with colourful frescos depicting social and religious life. Some of the havelis date back to the time the town was founded and today are a major tourism attraction.
While we are in Nawalgarh, we will be staying in the Roop Niwas Kothi Hotel which is where we will experience one of the highlights of the trip, the cooking classes.
The hotel was originally built as a country retreat for Singhji, a member of the royal family. The property is situated on 150 acres of land and back in the day was mainly used for stabling and grazing the family’s favourite horses. With its beautiful and lush surroundings, the country house soon become the permanent residence of the royal family.
In 1928, a descendant of the Singhji family completely renovated the home with such flair and style it become unique to the area. Without altering much of the 1928 renovation, in 1981 the successor of the family opened up the country retreat to guests. Since then it has had the honour of hosting a number of dignitaries from around the world.
Guests of the hotel enjoy old world charm in a serene setting and many feel like they have stepped back in time to a bygone era. It’s a hotel that’s reluctant to let go of the past and it is for that reason it charms so many of its guests.
From Roop Niwas, guests can tour the havelis, ride a camel to the bazaars, horseback ride to a private picnic area, or cycle to the local market.
But back at the hotel we also have the privilege of attending hands-on cooking classes. Teaching us the fundamentals of Indian cuisine will be the two resident chefs of the hotel.
Sultan Saini was born and raised in Nawalgarh and began working for the royal family in 1980. He started his working career in the hotel as a kitchen hand. He has had 35-years of experience and is now regarded as one of the best chefs in the region. Indian food isn’t at all similar to Italian food but what they have in common is that they’re both very regional. Sultan Saini, being local to the region, specialises in Rajasthani dishes that includes the famous Laal Maas, a fiery red curry dish made with mutton, as well as dishes like stuffed green chillies, okra curries, roti breads and meat cooked in milk and spices.
The other chef is Shiv Singh who was born in the foothills of the Himalayas. With very broad experience from working in many other parts of India, he came to work for the royal family at Roop Niwas in 2007. He has brought with him the knowledge and the skills to allow guests to try a wide selection of regional cuisines. And if you’d like a break from Indian cuisine, Singh is also very good at cooking up Chinese dishes.
(I’ve been told Indians traditionally don’t smile in photos but I’m sure when we’re there we will get a smile out of them).
After our hands-on cooking classes taught by these two experienced chefs, I’m sure we will return home ready to cook up a storm for our family and friends.
The boutique tour is on in March of next year and is for just 16 people. If you’d like more information you can contact our tour guide, Steve, from Rush Expeditions who will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.